From Barbara’s desk 20-03-2020

Hello Everyone,

Did any of you have pen pals?  When I was a young teenager, the school I attended organized these writing partnerships/friends.  It was a way to learn about other cultures, and to encourage us to write. This was in an era before emails and internet and Facebook/Twitter etc. I had two pen pals for a number of years: Gerard, from Ireland, and Mieko from Japan.  I would look forward to receiving their letters, as well as excitedly writing back.  I can’t remember what I wrote about, but I do remember how precious and welcome their letters were.  It was wonderful having friends in other countries.

Maybe you could be addressed as-

Hello Faith Pals?

The first item I would like to share with you, to bolster flagging spirits, is a hymn.  I did not know it until I heard it on Songs of Praise a number of years ago. 

The background to it is very moving.  Let me tell you the story of its origin, and of a man named Horatio Spafford.

In 1870, lawyer and Presbyterian church elder Horatio Spafford, and his wife Anna were well off.  They had extensive real estate along the shore of Lake Michigan.  But their happy life was to change-the first way was through the death of their 4 year old son, from scarlet fever.  The following year, in 1871, the Great Chicago Fire destroyed their properties.  To help ease his wife’s deep depression, and to cheer up their four daughters, Horatio arranged for them to take a trip to Europe in November 1873. He was also planning on helping hymn writers Sankey and Moody with their campaign in Britain. On the day they were due to leave, Horatio was faced with a sudden business emergency, so he sent them on ahead, and said he would follow in a few days time.  On November 22, in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, their streamer was struck by a British iron sailing ship, and sank in 12 minutes.  Out of the 307 passengers, only 81 were rescued-one of them was Anna Spafford.

Their daughters had drowned.

When Anna finally reached Cardiff, she sent Horatio a telegram with a brief and heartbreaking message: ‘Saved alone.” Horatio immediately set sail to bring his wife home.  Several days later he was called to the bridge by the ship’s captain when the ship passed the place where it was thought the steamer had gone down.  That night, alone in his cabin, with a faith that never faltered, Horatio penned the words of this moving hymn.  Later, he wrote to Anna’s sister:

‘On Thursday last we passed over the spot she went down, in mid-ocean, the waters three miles deep.  But I do not think of our dear ones there.  They are safe, folded, the dear lambs.’

Who among us, faced with such tragedy-the drowning of 4 daughters, could write words like these, not just of acceptance and deep faith, but of thanks, hope, praise? To be able to say: ‘it is well with my soul.’ To add to the couple’s grief, some of the Christian community back in Chicago starting talking about the accident as being punishment from God.  Horatio, and his wife, and with 2 daughters they soon had, fulfilled a lifelong ambition-to go and live in Jerusalem.  There they were a blessing to many.  They established The American Colony and brought practical help and love to the needy, the sick, and the homeless. Their own loss seemed to give them great compassion for the suffering of others.  Their work and its legacy continues in Jerusalem today, at The Spafford Children’s Centre.

The first verse and chorus of the hymn It Is Well With My Soul:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Horatio G. Spafford, 1873

May it be well with your soul as we cope with the Covid-19 (Corona virus) situation. 

‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.  I do not give to you as the world gives.  Do not let your hearts be troubled, and do not let them be afraid.'(John 14: 27)

Now, Bill Pugh has mentioned that hymns are on from 7am-7.30 on 3mbs.  Of course don’t forget Songs of Praise at 11.30 on the ABC. Bill and Geoff also mentioned the pew sheets from Synod:

Of course we are to pray for the world, and for each other. 

I have modified a prayer I found on-line which I thought was a lovely one to pray when we are feeling overwhelmed:

‘Everlasting , loving God, as I walk through circumstances that cause confusion and pain, remind me that your reign endures throughout all generations. Help me put my trust in you. Lift me up as I fall and raise my head when I feel overwhelmed. Through Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.’

Here is one from the President of the Uniting Church, Dr Deidre Palmer:


Gracious and loving God,

Give wisdom and strength to all those in our community and around the world, who are responding to the coronavirus – health professionals, government officials, aged care providers, school leaders.

May those who mourn the loss of loved ones to the virus, be comforted.

May those in our community who are feeling anxious, find peace and reassurance.

May our congregations, and faith communities be places of compassion, attentive to those who are impacted by the coronavirus.

May we be communities of empathy, love and care, in all we face.

Through Christ, our Lord, Amen.

Remember, phone or email is a great way to keep in touch.

My quote from Winnie the Pooh:

“What day is it?”asked Pooh.

“It’s today,”squeaked Piglet.

“My favourite day.”said Pooh.

Well, that is enough for you!  I have attached the sermon for Sunday.  Please print out and share the sermons with those who do not have email.  Letterbox drop would be preferable,

Blessings and love